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End of an era at Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy

Cary Ashby • Updated Aug 4, 2017 at 10:27 AM

Over the course of 43 years, dance instructor Cynthia Kniffin has touched the lives of many students and their families.

“It simply has been a privilege to work with all those wonderful families. There are not enough words to tell you how much of a privilege it has been,” she said.

Kniffin is retiring Sept. 1. She will hand her dance card to her daughter, Amy Bond, keeping the Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy a family affair.

“My mother doesn’t even realize the impact of how many lives she has touched throughout her career,” Bond said.

Kniffin enjoys the enrichment that dance, specifically ballet, brings her. She said she finds “the physical expression of ideas,” movement, learning the associated skills and drama the most fulfilling.

“I learned that I love hard work and discipline,” she said. “I find it (dance) very rich. … It can tell a story.”

Raised in Norwalk, Kniffin became hooked on and involved in the fine arts from a young age.

“My one sister did voice and my other one did piano,” said Kniffin, whose mother was a singer.

“I danced in the Ballet Guild of Cleveland under the direction of Alec Martin. I auditioned in high school,” she said. 

Kniffin would leave eighth-period study to drive herself to downtown Cleveland for rehearsals.

The 1965 Norwalk High School graduate studied dance at Butler University. After graduating, she taught at DePauw University for about 18 months.

“I met David doing graduate work at Bowling Green (State University),” Kniffin said, referring to her husband.

She and David were married in 1971. They were married for 44 years until his death at age 67 on July 9, 2015.

The chairman of the Huron County Republic Party for more than 25 years, David became his wife’s right-hand man soon after the Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy (CKDA) was established in 1974. According to his obituary, he was the behind-the-scenes expert of lighting, scene construction and “endless other details” for the performances and was considered a “grandfather” to the many dancers.

“I bought the studio one month after Amy was born; that was 1974,” Kniffin said.

The couple have two daughters: Bond and her husband Dale, of North Fairfield; and Elizabeth Kniffin Schurman and her husband Brett, of Indiana. Bond’s daughters, Hannah and Rachel, both study dance at CKDA.

“Hannah will study dance at Wright State,” Kniffin said.

The Cynthia Kniffin Dance Academy originally was located three doors to the east of its current location. It has been at 22 W. Main St. in downtown Norwalk since 2012. 

Kniffin initially had studios in Bellevue and Sandusky also.

“Very quickly I got rid of those and brought them all to Norwalk,” she said.

CKDA generally has about 100 students each year. Although “it’s probably the smallest studio in Norwalk,” Kniffin said she wants her academy to be known for teaching students “the love of ballet” and for its family-like atmosphere.

“What you put into it is what you get out of it,” she added.

Bond, Kniffin’s daughter, said the discipline of dance creates a love for the fine arts and “helps us bond over time.”

“You master something that not everybody has the opportunity to be exposed to,” she added. “We call our students our family.”

Bond, who admittedly “grew up in the studio,” took a movement class at age 5. She started teaching when she was about 18. Most recently, Bond has choreographed dances for high schools and colleges and has performed liturgical dance.

“(Dancing) was easy to love. That’s where my passion grew from; it’s never faded out,” said Bond, the CKDA assistant director.  

Admitting to her stomach being “a little jittery” about taking over the academy, Bond said she wants to continue the legacy her mother has established.

“Also I want more students to see what CKDA has to offer,” she added. “I hope I can help the fine arts not disappear.”

Kniffin has confidence in what her daughter will do. She praised Bond’s teaching skills — her ability to communicate, dancing experience, her love of dance and expressing what she expects from her students.

“Amy is phenomenal. She has a heart of gold,” Kniffin said. “She will build it and make it better. I’m convinced of it.”

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